Toward a vision and strategy for Canadian permafrost knowledge


Working toward co-development of collective approaches for informing adaptation and building resilience to permafrost change.

Positioning statement

Canada is a permafrost country in a global climate crisis. Our northern land and communities are shaped by ground that has been frozen for thousands of years. Climate-driven permafrost thaw changes the land, damages infrastructure, and further warms the atmosphere. It threatens Indigenous ways of life and the ability to plan for a resilient future for Northerners. Currently, Canada’s permafrost knowledge (like in many other jurisdictions) is not well suited to address our climate-change crisis. Our vision is a vibrant and sustainable future on changing permafrost lands. We believe that this can be achieved by effective adaptation, enabled by networked capacity and services, informed by braiding of western and Indigenous knowledge systems. Conversely, escalating costs and risks in the long term will result from delayed action. Permafrost 2030+: Towards a vision and strategy for Canadian permafrost knowledge strives to collectively define the needs for permafrost knowledge and identify the solutions required to deliver them.

Values and actions

We value DIVERSITY and INCLUSION: We encourage the expression of viewpoints, beliefs, and practices from people with different identities and life experiences.

  • We seek diverse representation on our committee and engagement groups, especially Indigenous and Northern representation.
  • We listen to understand and show appreciation for different opinions.
  • We encourage everyone to participate in meetings and provide opportunities to contribute outside of formal meetings.

Our activities are SOLUTION-FOCUSED – We undertake proactive solutions.

  • We learn from past experiences and focus on future positive outcomes. 
  • We think critically to understand the root of a challenge.
  • We seek new perspectives and expertise to solve problems.

We value TRANSPARENT COLLABORATION – We collaborate and openly share information with permafrost stakeholders.

  • We initiate engagement with a wide variety of stakeholders.
  • We incorporate stakeholder contributions or explain why they were excluded.
  • We openly and honestly share our activities and decisions in a timely and accessible fashion.

We value ACCOUNTABILITY – We take responsibility for our actions.

  • We define and communicate our role, responsibilities, governance, and timelines.
  • We use resources wisely, especially stakeholder’s time.
  • We acknowledge and make amends for mistakes.

Indigenous and Northern participation

The development of a vision and strategy for permafrost knowledge in Canada necessarily requires co-development and shared governance with strong participation of Northerners and Indigenous peoples and organizations. The initiative’s current capacity is not sufficient to support a comprehensive, structured process to achieve pan-northern engagement and participation. An approach beginning without further delay, based on the initiative’s current resources is recommended, and structured into two phases: In Phase 1 (2021-2022) participants in the initiative reach out through their networks to inform, engage, and invite perspectives and participation. The feedback from this will be collectively recorded and made available here on this webpage to inform continuous feedback for the ongoing outreach and in framing key issues and opportunities. We engage informally with key initiatives, for example, the Canadian Permafrost Association, the National Adaptation Strategy, and Climate Science 2050. Based on Phase 1, we intend to gather sufficient momentum and support from partners so that in Phase 2 (2022 onwards), an open and structured process toward co-development and shared governance will be possible and that this can elevate permafrost knowledge in Canada to better inform decisions related to climate change.

Considerations toward a vision and strategy for permafrost knowledge in Canada

As an arctic Nation, Canada has a responsibility and opportunity to be a global leader in adapting to permafrost thaw and understanding how it will further warm the global atmosphere. A shared vision and strategy is important to guide Canada’s investment in resources that enable the world to adapt to permafrost thaw.

Stephan Gruber, Jocelyn Hayley, Kumari Karunaratne, Janet King, Tristan MacLean, Shawn Marshall, and David Moore. 2023. Considerations toward a vision and strategy for permafrost knowledge in Canada. Arctic Sciencee-First

Fig. 1. Canada is a permafrost country. The map is in Lambert Conformal Conic projection and based on Gruber (2012) and the CanVec Series geospatial data (NRCan n.d.).
Fig. 2. Northerners are already experiencing the rapidly increasing impacts of permafrost thaw. Here are some examples of the changes that can happen when permafrost thaws. Permafrost is ground that remains below 0 °C for at least two years in a row. It lies below the active layer that seasonally freezes and thaws each year.
Fig. 3. Scientists create additional knowledge about permafrost. Understanding how and why it thaws helps to also understand what permafrost changes are likely to happen in the future and how we can prepare. The colour changes over time represent SSP5-8.5 and SSP1-2.6 in Figure SPM8a of IPCC (2021).
Fig. 4. The circle of groups with an interest in permafrost is large and growing. The examples here show some of the many differing mandates, interests, and perspectives. Every individual or organization holds and seeks differing types of knowledge. When we connect this knowledge well, it can inform and drive action. Creating or strengthening the resources and initiatives shown inside the circle can help us make strong connections in the long term.

Who we are

This initiative is led by members of the permafrost Strategy Committee, who are listed as authors of this document. The committee has an evolving membership to reflect the needs and opportunities arising as this initiative develops. The committee was formed with the purpose of catalyzing an open and inclusive strategic thinking exercise for the future of Canadian permafrost research under the directions and oversight of the NSERC PermafrostNet Board of Directors. NSERC PermafrostNet is a Strategic Partnership Network funded for 2019–2024, that unites key scholars and stakeholders from government agencies, industry and Indigenous communities with the common goal of boosting Canada’s ability to adapt to large scale permafrost thaw. Its Board of Directors provides guidance and oversight and reflects the interests and concerns of partners from governments, Indigenous organizations, companies, and universities involved in the network.

Strategy Committee

Stephan Gruber

Stephan Gruber

Carleton University

Jocelyn Hayley

Jocelyn Hayley

University of Calgary

Kumari Karunaratne

Kumari Karunaratne

Northwest Territories Geological Survey and Canadian Permafrost Association

Janet King

Public Services and Procurement Canada (retired)

Board Chair

Tristan MacLean

Tristan MacLean

NSERC PermafrostNet

Director of Operations

Shawn Marshall

Environment and Climate Change Canada and University of Calgary

David Moore

Government of Nunavut

Lawrence Ruben

Inuvialuit Game Council

Engagement and Consultation

The views and opinions received during these engagements do not necessarily reflect the views of either NSERC PermafrostNet, our funders, partners, other stakeholder organizations consulted, or individuals who provided input.

StakeholdersEngagementDateOther details
CPA and NSERC PermafrostNet membersStrategy session at the CPA / PermafrostNet joint AGM 2021 - How do we want permafrost research to evolve in Canada?17 November 2021
NSERC PermafrostNet members and artist in residence.Discussion groups at the Kluane Lake Research Station retreat.20 August 2022
North Yukon Permafrost Conference AttendeesPresentation - Towards a Vision and Strategy for Canadian Permafrost Knowledge by Stephan Gruber, and poster sessions.22 August 2022

You can see the comments, thoughts and ideas of the attendees of the strategy session at the CPA / PermafrostNet joint AGM 2021 in the Exchange Summary below:

An evolving dialogue – Version 1 of the Infographic

Permafrost draft strategy infographic

Feedback and comments

If you have any comments, suggestions, contributions or other feedback you would like to provide please do not hesitate to email us straightaway at